Flyers aim to end Capitals’ 14-game home win streak
WASHINGTON — Newcomer Valtteri Filppula paid an immediate dividend for the Philadelphia Flyers on Thursday night.
Now the Flyers will try to continue their playoff push against the NHL’s hottest home team on Saturday when they visit the league-leading Washington Capitals.
Acquired from the Tampa Bay Lightning on Wednesday, Filppula scored the game-tying goal with 9:22 remaining in the third period and Philadelphia (30-26-7) defeated the Florida Panthers 2-1 in a shootout for their second straight win.
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“It hasn’t been an easy four or five weeks for us, yet this group still has a strong belief in one another,” Flyers coach Dave Hakstol said. “Adding ‘Fil’ does nothing but strengthen that belief.”
Filppula skated on a line with Jakub Voracek and Brayden Schenn.
“He didn’t have much ice time first half of the game, and then he got to play a little more. We talked about it, stay patient and energy is going to come,” Voracek told NHL.com. “Last 10 minutes, every time we were on the ice we created something. There’s a lot to build on. It’s a good feeling.”
Goaltender Steve Mason stopped 39 shots as the Flyers remained in the thick of the race for the second wild card in the Eastern Conference.
The normally high-scoring Capitals grinded out a 1-0 win over the New Jersey Devils on Thursday night for a franchise-record 14th straight home win.
“We’ve got components or pieces that we can play a speed game, can play a grind game, we’re learning some patience,” head coach Barry Trotz said. “Maybe in the past we would say we’ll just outscore them.”
Washington (43-13-7), which has not lost in regulation at home since Dec. 17 (14-0-2), continues to benefit from its depth.
Rookie Jakub Vrana, recalled from Hershey of the American Hockey League earlier in the week and filling in for the injured Andre Burakovsky, scored on a power play at 7:21 of the third period. It was his second goal of the season.
“He’s come up a few times. Every time he comes up he feels more a part of the team,” Trotz said. “You can’t really hand a young player confidence, they’ve got to earn it a little bit.”
The Capitals continue to get contributions across the roster while missing production from some of the usual sources.
Leading scorer Alex Ovechkin has a goal and three assists in his last nine games. After scoring 50 or more goals in each of the past three seasons, Ovechkin is on pace for 35. He is also averaging about two minutes less in time on ice per game this season then in the previous three.
T.J. Oshie, second on the team with 24 goals, has missed the last four games with an upper body injury, though he may return Saturday night.
“It wasn’t really the cleanest game all around, but we battled through it and it seems like this team’s M.O. is that they just stick with it,” Washington newcomer Kevin Shattenkirk after his home debut. “Different guys step up at big times and score some goals.”
Mason, who has allowed one regulation goal in his last two starts, is 9-6-2 with two shutouts and a 2.82 goals against average versus Washington.
He was in net for the Flyers’ 3-2 home shootout win on Dec. 21 and a 5-0 loss at Washington on Jan. 15. Michal Neuvirth took the loss in a 4-1 defeat last week in Philadelphia.
Schenn has three goals and four assists in his last six games overall and Voracek has at least one point in seven of his last nine games.
Holtby, who has faced the Flyers twice this season, is 7-4-7 with two shutouts and a 2.67 GAA in his career versus Philadelphia.
Ovechkin has 31 goals and 20 assists in 44 games against the Flyers.